It's Saturday and we have been in Cambodia since Thursday morning. We have seen and done so much, it's hard to believe it has been only 3 days. Phnom Penh is a city of many contrasts: new buildings and old dilapidated homes; extreme wealth and extreme poverty; beautiful flowers and trees and piles of rotting garbage, but the people are the same: smiling, smiling, "Sok sabi" with folded hands - a gesture of respect. They smile regardless of what their circumstances are, because to do otherwise would not be respectful. My impressions, to date, are of a resilientpeople, who have continued to survive in spite of the challenges of their day to day. When you turn down the main street of Svay Pak, it is hard not to be impacted by the poverty - the subsistent living conditions, chickens and dogs running loose, dirt and garbage everywhere. The Sanctuary stands like a beacon in a dark community - it is by far the tallest building and the huge windows, that open into the church area, let in so much light - God's light. Standing on theback balcony, the houses that form a "U" around the communal "green space" are no more than shanties. Children are washed in the rainwater flowing from the downspout, laundry hangs outside and cooking is done in the open air. The "green area" is a garbage dump - years of garbage being tossed over the fence. Chickens are scratching through the garbage for food and the people will, at some point, eat the chickens. In among the homes and brothels dotting the community, girls are trafficked and sold each night, horribly abused. But in Svay Pak, something is happening.
We have the incredible privilege of getting to know Pastor Chantha and his wife Buntahn - a family passionate about sharing the transforming love of Jesus. Here they live in this community, with their son David and newly adopted daughter, Meena, to minister to the people of Svay Pak. This is what is transforming the community. Pastor Chantha has a number of young men and women he is discipling - they are committed to sharing Jesus with the men, women and children of this community. This weekend, Pastor Chantha is holding a spiritual retreat for his disciples, where the are gathering from Friday at 4:00 pm to Sunday at 4:00 pm. They will study Scripture and pray and then go out into the community two by two, knocking on doors, seeking opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Pastor Chantha said sometimes people won't hear and will not speak with them and other times they have the opportunity to share. And lives are being transformed; as a result, some parents hearts are changed and they are refusing to sell their daughters. Praise God!
It is incredible to believe that God has allowed us to be a very small part of this amazing miracle in Svay Pak - to help complete The Sanctuary that will be used to continue to expand the outreach ministry that is happening. Tomorrow morning we have the privilege of attending the church service at Rahab's House in Svay Pak and to worship with the over 200 people who will attend. I can't wait to see what will happen next.